Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory

Ritter Planetarium Upgrade 2011: A Photo Journal

This page documents in words and pictures our planetarium's progress through the upgrade of its star projector and interior furnishings. Entries are in reverse chronological order, most recent first. Unless otherwise credited, all images are by Alex Mak.

Our 44-year-old Spitz A3P' star ball is being replaced with a SciDome XD 3-dimensional computerized space simulator manufactured by Spitz, Inc. in Chadds Ford, PA. Also underway are general refurbishment of the planetarium theater's interior and the dome exterior.

August 25, 2011
Brad is leaning on the projector and casting a shadow back on the dome.  Most the day was spent aligning and calibrating the projector.  It looks great!

Dome projection with shadow

August 24, 2011

Here is Craig installing our SciDome XD projector. We had "first light" late this afternoon. Another two days and the
installation will be complete. Then the learning curve will start! (Image credit: Brad Rush)

SciDome XD being installed

August 24, 2011


Our new projector is here! Craig Amore from Spitz begins the week-long installation of our SciDome XD projector, control console, and 5.1 surround sound system. Check back tomorrow for more pictures.
Craig Amore begins installation




August 10, 2011

80 days to the grand reopening and counting!

Flyer for grad reopening

August 9, 2011

Our 92 brand new seats have been installed!  They are much more comfortable than the old ones were.  The picture doesn't do justice to how nice they look. You'll just have to come and see it for yourself!

The new seats

August 8, 2011

The new seats have arrived.  Workers have been busy measuring and laying out the precise placement in the theater.  We should have some nice installation pictures tomorrow.

The new seats, in boxes, in the planetarium lobby.



July 20, 2011

Just in case you out-of-towners have any doubts, the dome exterior really has been repainted!  (Images by Nancy Morrison)

Before (left): November 6, 2009. After (right): today

The planetarium dome before and after its repainting

July 19, 2011

Our new "fun and funky" carpet has been installed!  This picture doesn't do it justice!  It is way out there!

New carpet

July 18, 2011

Our system being built by a Spitz technician in Chadds Ford, PA (image by Brad Rush).

A Spitz technician works on our system.

Here is our system at the factory (image by Michael Cushing).

The Spitz XD system at the factory

July 12, 2011

We have a date! Installation of our Spitz Sci-Dome XD system is scheduled to start August 22! (Graphics credit Caroline Mak)

Calendar showing installation date

July 8, 2011

We seem to have reached a lull in the renovation work. The dome interior and exterior have been painted, the carpet and seats removed, and the lobby ceiling tiles removed. Today, finally, the bolts were removed from the floor.  The pit in the center has been filled with stones, but we're still waiting for the final layer of cement.

This photograph shows two spare dome panels. The one on the left has been painted with the new color, while the one on the right has not been painted yet. Spitz suggested that we change the color of the dome interior from the traditional white to a light gray, which is the optimal color for fulldome projection systems.


Spare dome panels showing new paint color

June 30, 2011


Today our upgrade was featured in UT News.


June 25, 2011

Here's a picture taken from the upper catwalk behind the dome.  The "infamous" ladder goes up from the lower left corner to upper right towards the zenith.  Also visible is a strip of metal that used to hold the Sun canisters, part of our seasons "solar panel."  The circle on the dome is where a Sun canister used to be. Image credit: Brad Rush.

The dome seen from the inner catwalk


June 23, 2011
With scattered rain all week, the painters have moved to the dome interior. Notice the new color? According to Spitz, the preferred dome color for fulldome video is not white, but rather the light gray of the lower portion of the ceiling in this picture. The upper portion is the original color.

Also, the center pit has been filled with stones, and the electrical connections have been brought up to the surface. Next, the opening will be covered with cement.
Dome interior June 23, 2011


June 16, 2011

Today was a quiet day in Ritter.  The pit has been filled with the stones, and the staff continues to sort through 44 years' worth of spare parts, projectors, and other assorted "junk."

The current issue of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association's newsletter (PDF, 8 MB), received today, includes an ad for the Spitz SciDome XD projector that we are getting! This is the first print ad I've ever seen for the XD.

June 14, 2011

The carpeting has been removed. Other than some leftover wiring, some bolts in the floor, and a few special effects behind the dome, the planetarium theater has been totally stripped.

The Ritter Planetarium theater stripped

June 13, 2011

Here's a pile of stones next to "our temporary dumpster." No, they're not meteorites. They will be used to fill the hole in the center of the planetarium where the old Spitz A3P' could be lowered. Once filled with the stones, the hole will be covered with cement.


June 10, 2011

In the lobby, the ceiling tiles have been removed in preparation for new tiles and light fixtures! Meanwhile in the dome, UT electricians continue to disassemble the console and the miles of wiring associated with it, while planetarium staff continue to remove obsolete equipment. Outside, the painters have paused for the day, apparently because of rain.


June 8, 2011

The interior of the planetarium has been gutted except for the old consoles and carpet. One of the UT electricians is working in the pit on a ladder.


June 7, 2011

The painters have begun stripping the paint off the exterior of the dome in preparation for painting it.


June 3, 2011

Marina and Dhruv remove the rotating Milky Way projector from behind the dome.


June 1, 2011

Two UT electricians move our beloved Spitz A3P' into storage.

Document custodian: Nancy Morrison

Last Updated: 4/23/21